By Brenna Walsh
December 2, 2016
The Middle East and North Africa are home
to some of the world’s most dangerous and turbulent conflicts.
According to a Pew Research Centre study
drawing on information from 2014, the medium level of religious hostilities in
the Middle East and North Africa reached a level four times greater than the
One question that has surfaced in the light
of regional conflict revolves around its effect on faith and religious practice.
There have been reports of ethnic cleansing
related to religion in Iraq, harassment of Christians and Jews by both
government forces and social groups in the region and major displacement of
peoples due to religion.
“Jewish extremism has eroded the moral core
of Judaism, Islamic extremism has led to deep suspicion of Islam by others and
Christians have abandoned the teaching of Jesus to support persecution of
others and the use of violence,” said retired Professor of Religious Studies
and Campus Ministry Coordinator Max Carter.
Carter has led many trips to Israel and
Palestine and is dedicated in learning about their conflicts.
Extremist groups within these regions, such
as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and the Islamic State
group use religion as a backdrop to their terrorist actions, though they garner
little popular support.
“These groups are blaming their actions on
religion when it has nothing to do with religion,” said sophomore Hadis Daqiq,
who is from Afghanistan. “(The violence) has to do with getting into power and
having more control.”
Concern towards Islamic extremism is
widespread amongst Muslims, stretching from sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle
East to South Asia. A majority of Muslims said they had an unfavourable view of
Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2014. Despite this, the majority of the United
States sees these conflicts as being religion-based.
“They have passed the point of religion,”
said Daqiq. “It’s not about that, it’s about self-interest. They’re hungry, and
they want to get food.”
Overall support for violence in the name of
Islam has seen a significant decrease from Muslim publics throughout the past
decade. It was found by Pew that 3/4 of respondents or more in Pakistan,
Indonesia, Nigeria and Tunisia agreed suicide bombings and other acts of
violence that target civilians are never justified.
“Da’esh have misused Islam to draw
followers, misinterpreting the Qur’an and Islamic tradition to bolster its
fortunes,” said Carter.
This, in effect, has led to murder, incarceration
and migration within the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities.
These conflicts have also greatly affected
how religion is seen and used by civilians in these regions. In some cases,
there is an abandonment of religion.
“There is a minimum of three bomb attacks
every month,” said Daqiq. “You see people die just like that. They just keep
dying, and you kind of loose hope.”
Different internal experiences and global
responses to these conflicts display that in high-risk situations religion may
decrease in meaning.
“People will abandon their religion’s core
principles for personal interests,” said Carter.
Though for some, religion remains a
powerful force of hope in a time of dense violence. Religious practices such as
Arbaeen, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage to Iraq’s holy city of Karbala,
remain important to be upheld.
“They try to have hope, religion is that
fact that God is there to help you,” said Daqiq. “The country is really
religious partly because you can’t look another way. It’s more of a sign of
hope and a reason to live. They need to hold onto the thought that God is going
to one day fix this.”